Hooked on Classics

Hooked on ClassicsI like classical music (I have enough of it in my iTunes library to listen to only classical music for 8 days non-stop) but I really know very little about it. It is relaxing and enjoyable, but I can't tell Mozart from Rachmaninov (actually, I probably could... but I'm trying to make a point here!).

I also happen to like Amazon, so when Amazon sent me an email listing a bunch of classical music albums on sale for $5 (these are MP3s, not CDs) I knew I was going to blow some cash, but I didn't think I would be transported back to my childhood.

When I was a little boy my family had an old record player in the livingroom, stored up on top of a built in china cabinet. Every once and awhile I would get it down and listen to some records that my parents had. I don't recall what any of those records were with one exception: Hooked On Classics.

What's Hooked On Classics? I suggest you check out the Amazon page and listen to the previews... think classical music meets disco and you'll have a good idea of what it sounds like.

Needless to say I'm $5 poorer but richer in the childhood memories that come flowing back whenever I hear a track from the album. Seems like a fair trade to me.

Neil Diamond concert report


Or how I became 'that guy'

As you might recall, Marisa and I went to a Neil Diamond concert on Sunday. Through the magic of technology I was able to file a report live from the concert itself showing off my swanky new t-shirt. That post inspired both Geoff and Glenn to opine that I shouldn't be 'that guy,' you know... the guy that wears the t-shirt of the band to said band's concert.

There is one big assumption in that line of thinking though: that I wore said Neil Diamond t-shirt to the concert (which also assumes that I owned that shirt before the concert). Now, I'm a fan of Neil Diamond, I'm not ashamed to admit that. His music is catchy, upbeat, and entertaining. He enjoys being himself (no matter how schlocky or uncool his persona might be, which has had the effect of making him kind of cool once more. I like to call this the 'Shatner effect'). All of this is to say that Mr. Diamond is aces in my book. However, I never felt the need to own a Neil Diamond t-shirt and didn't own one before that fateful Sunday.

How then, you wonder, did I end up wearing a Neil Diamond t-shirt at his concert? I'll tell you:

Marisa and I are two very different people. I'm a bit neurotic about being on time and feel the need to leave for various events (movies, concerts, flights) several hours early. Marisa doesn't mind being a little late so she tends to leave later than I would like (a lot later, actually). Since this concert was my idea (though Marisa made it possible) we left when I wanted to leave (that's how we handle our incompatible time tables: if we are doing something that Marisa planned we leave when she wants, and if is something I planned we leave when I want to). That meant that we had to hurry out of the apartment (evidence to this fact: Marisa wore two different shoes). While we were leaving we noticed there was some light rain so we brought along Marisa's tiny umbrella.

We hopped onto public transit (because we're cool like that) and emerged to find that the area of Philadelphia in which the stadiums are situated, and in which the concert was being held, was being buffeted by some sort of monsoon. Rain, rain, and more rain was everywhere. We waited for a bit in hopes that the rain would slacken (we were 30 minutes early thanks to my mania) and we dashed out when it looked like the rain was letting up. As we walked across a large parking lot, huddled under a tiny cocktail umbrella, the skies opened up. Half of my Hawaiian shirt (washable silk, luckily) was soaked, as was my t-shirt underneath. Marisa also got a little damp, but thankfully she was better shielded than I.

We arrived at the concert venue (the Wachovia Center, for those in the know) and I had a choice to make as Marisa used the lady's room: I could sit through the whole concert wearing a very wet shirt and not have any fun or I could buy a new shirt. Luckily, when you're at a concert there are plenty of shirts to be had that are both concert appropriate and dry! I headed over to the t-shirt hut and looked at the offerings. I thought the 'So good. So good.' shirt was hilarious and my choice was made (though really, I think the t-shirt should say 'So good.' three times, but who am I to tell the Diamond people how to make their t-shirts). $35 later I was wearing a dry shirt, and letting the world know that Neil Diamond is, in fact, so good, so good.

I hope this clears up the matter of the t-shirt, and that this incident hasn't caused anyone undue stress.

How was the concert?

The concert itself was a hoot. Marisa had snagged some free tickets that happened to be in the last row of the upper deck. We were pretty far from the stage, but I figured you only really need to hear the music, and they had large screens set up so I wasn't concerned. The place wasn't sold out (though the concert on Saturday was) so there were lots of empty seat around us, which was nice too.

A few minutes before the concert was about to start some dude walked up to Marisa and myself and asked me, 'Is it just you two?' I said, 'umm.. yes.' and he said, 'Well, today's your lucky day!' And he handed us two tickets for seats in the 7th row of a section right off the side of the stage! It was pretty darned cool, and we had a great view (and you can't beat the price).

Marisa had fun too, though she told me that she didn't really get the rabid fanbase that Neil Diamond has. Oh, the unbelievers.

I did feel a little sorry for Neil Diamond though. Sure, he gets to sing his songs in front of lots of people and make a good living doing it which is great. That being said you go to a Neil Diamond concert wanting to hear songs that he wrote, and sang, for the first time 30 years ago. I am sure he's aware of this, and the concert was full of all the hits you would expect (and they sounded very good) but I got the sense that he enjoyed playing his new material more (though the crowd certainly didn't enjoy his new stuff as much as say... 'Cherry, Cherry').

I actually like his new album, and I enjoyed the 3 songs he played off of it... but I can't deny that the highlight of the evening was Sweet Caroline (which you haven't heard until you've heard it in a big stadium with 10,000 people singing along).

Neil Diamond, for a second time

neil_diamond.gifAlmost 3 years ago to the day, Julie made me a very happy boy by supplying me with both Neil Diamonds tickets (which were free) and a willing concert buddy (Becky and Eric went with us too but this was way back when Becky was blogging). Ah, Neil truly did rock my socks off.

Neil is making his way to Philly once more, but I forgot to buy tickets when I had the chance. I figured I would just forgo the Neil this time around, and just listen to his new album while other people were enjoying him live and in concert.

I was sitting at my desk at work today, trying to forget that I wouldn't be seeing Neil Diamond's concert this week when Barry asked me if I was going to the Neil Diamond concert. Sadly, I said, I would be Diamond-less this year. I was crestfallen, but determined to live my life to the fullest. Not an hour later I got an IM from a lovely young lady (with whom I happen to live). Marisa had some news to share: she managed to get two free tickets to the Neil Diamond concert this Sunday.

Clearly, the universe loves me.

Below you can see where we will be seated:


Sure, we'll be a little far from the stage, but these tickets are free and hearing the music is the important thing. I can hardly wait!

The Else by They Might Be Giants

theelsetmbg.jpgI don't know when my love of They Might Be Giants started. It might have been thanks to Greg, a friend of mine whom I haven't spoken to in years. I seem to recall listening to Flood at his house and being hooked. That was at least 15 years ago, and TMBG (that's They Might Be Giants to those in the know) remain my all time favorite band.


Their songs have a goofy enthusiasm that I enjoy, which might explain why I am awake at 1:30am listening to their latest effort, 'The Else' (iTunes is playing The Shadow Government at the moment). Over at TUAW I wrote that TMBG were releasing The Else exclusively on iTunes a good while before it would be available in stores. Luckily (?) I couldn't fall asleep tonight, so I was able to download the album minutes after it was available on iTunes.

I'm digging The Else so far, but it'll take a few listens for me to have a fully fleshed out opinion of the album. I'm Impressed, the first track, is really groovy.

Sweep the Leg

Ryan sent me this link to the above video. It is 7 minutes long, but so worth it (especially if you are a child of the 80's and slightly obsessed with pop culture). No More Kings' album is available on iTunes, and I bought it. I mean come on, they have a song about the Karate Kid, Knight Rider, and Zombies! Clearly something I should own (and the songs are pretty good too), and clearly it ain't for everybody (though little of my music is).

Rainbow Connection

Kermit BanjoAs far as I can remember no one has ever asked me who my favotire Muppet is, but if it ever comes up I think I would pick Kermit. Sure, I'm probably more like Fozzie in real life, but Kermit is the glue that keeps the Muppets together. Without Kermit who knows where Animal would be or would would happen to Scooter?

I'm sure that astute readers of this blog know where I'm headed with this: I want to learn to play the banjo. I don't know why, it is just something that I have wanted to do for awhile. I don't think I would dress up in a straw hat and suspenders but I think it would be fun to have a banjo around for strumming. Perhaps I could bring it to work and dispense technical advise and homespun wisdom with a heapin' helping of twangy folk music.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Online Music Store

phillyorch.pngPhiladelphia isn't known as a tech mecca. Sure, the WiFi project gets the headlines, but other than that tech news from Philly is kinda slim pickings.

I'm pleased to say that the Philadelphia Orchestra, of all organizations, is making something of a splash on tech sites. They just announced a music store through which they will be selling recordings of their concerts. This isn't what's getting the headlines though, it is what the music store doesn't offer that is getting the geeks interested.

What's that, you ask? Why, DRM. That's right, the store offers downloads of the orchestra's concerts in either MP3 or FLAC format with no DRM. Do what you will with these files, the orchestra cares not.

Best of all, for a limited time, you can download Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 for free, though only in the MP3 format.

If you'll excuse me, I have some free MP3's to listen to.

I'm getting a new iPod!


My mother, no doubt, will frown upon this expense but I just bought myself a brand new 80 gig iPod. When Steve announced them on Sept. 12th, I knew one would be mine. I wanted to head on over to the local Apple Store, but I kept calling and they kept telling that they didn't have any. How sad. So I just ordered one from Amazon (I'm an Amazon Prime member after all, so I get free shipping and really cheap overnight shipping. Guess which one I picked for my new iPod?).

My current 40 gig iPod Photo has served me well for a couple of years, but it is time to move on for me. Every iPod I have gotten has had twice to storage capacity of its predecessor, so the 80 gig model was the one for me (in classic white, iPod shouldn't be black if you ask me).

I can't wait to get it! Of course, I only have 30 gigs of music, but I am sure I will find a way to fill it up.

Now, what to name it! iScott the third is lame.

Oh, and I just thought of this: no sales tax on my iPod from Amazon. Score one for me.

I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes

TAW1.jpgSaturday night isn't complete without a little geek folk music. What's geek folk you ask? Well, it is a term I came up with the other day to explain Jonathan Coulton to Marisa. I think it is quite apt, and so would you if you have ever heard his music (and shame on you for not knowing who he is).

Anyway, Jonathan Coulton was opening for some other folky kinda dude over at MilkBoy Coffee of Ardmore. I convinced Marisa to sally forth with me (I just said, 'hey, you like folk music. Wanna see this concert?' and she was all like, 'Sure.'). Off we went to MilKBoy Coffee of Ardmore, little did we know that serendipity was on our side.

Normally I purchase tickets for any kind of show well in advance, however, I figured how likely was it that a concert in a coffeehouse (in Ardmore) would sell out? Turns out it is exceedingly likely since that is exactly what happened.

So, I hear you asking, how the heck did we get into the show?

Cue serendipity.

It would just so happen that moments before a lovely lady, accompanied by her sister, entered MilkBoy Coffee of Ardmore. She was in a bit of a state because her two other companions, who were supposed to be at the show, were unable to make it. She asked the kind girl at the door if she would mind letting the next two people who came to the door without tickets in for free. She was worried that the MilkBoy Coffee of Ardmore staffer would balk at such a request, but she shouldn't have worried. The girl at the door said that wouldn't be a problem. Elated the woman, and her sister, go to their seats and thought nothing of what they had just done.

I'm sure, by now, that you can guess who the next two ticketless people at the door were. That's right, it was Marisa and myself. Not only did we get into the very sold out show, we got in for free. You can't beat that.

The woman at the door kindly pointed out our mysterious benefactors and I purchased their coffee and pastries for them as a sign of our thanks.

Getting in for free is always a great way to start any show. As we were walking to find some seats who did we spy but none-other than Sarcasmo (who, as a big fan of zombies, I wasn't surprised to see). We didn't get a chance to chat, but we waved and acknowledged each other's presence, as you do. Anywho, read her recounting of the story here, and note, as I did, that there is nary a mention of Blankbaby in the whole thing.

Soon the lights dimmed and the man, the myth, the minstrel that is Jonathan Coultan took the stage like the giant of geek folk that he is. He started off with his rendition of Baby Got Back, which is a classic. It was also quite amusing to watch the audience slowly realize what he was singing and start to laugh. Ahh, good stuff, folks.

He also played (not in the order that they were played, and perhaps not all that he played. I am relying on my memory):

  • Millionaire Girlfriend: A touching song about finding what every man wants, a millionaire women who is willing to give you power of attorney

  • Kenesaw Mountain Landis: A song which I have enjoyed for many months, but I never knew what the hell it was about. Jonathan explained that it is about the Black Sox scandal and then it all make sense to me (well, as much sense as it could).

  • Skullcrusher Mountain: Evil geniuses need love too.

  • Code Monkey: His underground hit about coders.

  • Re Your Brains: A zombie tries to negotiate (and my personal favorite song of his).

I think that was all he played, but he was highly entertaining.

Now, a note about Re Your Brains. Sometimes, when I find a song I am particularly fond of I listen to it over and over and over again. Endlessly. Nonstop. For days on end. Re Your Brains was one such song (another example would be 'A View to a Kill' by Duran Druan). When I wasn't listening to it, I heard it echoing in the chambers of my mind. My thoughts were filled with the constant baying of zombies pleading for brains. I even made Glenn listen to it when I visited him. He was not impressed. No accounting for taste, I suppose.

Overall, Mr. Coultan was fantastic. I had thought that he might be a touch too geeky for Marisa, but she enjoyed him as well so that was good.

Next up was Jim Boggia, the headliner. I had never heard any of his music but was informed that he was a more serious folker, so I knew what I was getting into. He is obviously a very talented fellow, but he rubbed me the wrong way (in the metaphorical sense, there was no actual rubbing going on. Well, none that involved me anyway).

He got up and started strumming his guitar, sang a song, and then asked that the lights be turned down. Not a big deal. Another song and his guitar strap broke, so he needed a chair or stool (he got both). Also, not annoying. The third song and he asked that the AC be turned off. Now, that's where I draw the line. Sure, it wasn't hot out in Ardmore last night, but if you are in a room with a couple hundred other people with windows that don't open AC is needed (especially if you happen to be a large man who runs a little hot). Without the AC, which was either turned off or lowered significantly, the place started to heat up. It wasn't unbearable but it wasn't as nice as it once was during those halcyon times when Jonathan Coulton was playing.

The final thing that irked me a little was that Mr Boggia eschewed a set list for the ever popular, 'Ask the audience what they want to hear.' While this sounds great in theory ('Holy crap, the dude I came to see has suddenly turned into a jukebox that might play a song I yell out') it is just annoying, and not only to people who don't know any of your songs. Your loyal fans, no doubt, have their favorite songs and there is no way that you will manage to sing them all, so why give them a glimmer of hope by suggesting that they yell out what they want to hear? Seems kind of cruel to me.

Anyway, Jim Boggia is talented but not for me. Hey, it happens to the best of us (and it happens to me all the time, though I am not talented so it particularly stings).

Tabloid footprints in your hair

tmbglogo.jpgYou would think that if you invited several Philadelphia bloggers to accompany you to see They Might Be Giants (who are my favorite band, bar none) that someone would write about it.

You would be wrong.

Some might point out that the concert was on Friday and I am only now writing about it myself. Hey, I was busy going to the Apple Store, and then making that darned podcast (which has been viewed over 2,500 times on YouTube alone).

Enough moaning, onto the night at hand.

The plan was for everyone to meet at the Latest Dish before the concert to 'get our grub on' at 7pm. I was on track for being on time when Julie called and offered me a ride, which was very nice. Since this would save me the trouble of getting the trolley and then taking the subway (and give me some time to talk to Julie) I took her up on her offer.

That made me late.

Julie and I arrived at the Latest Dish at 7:30 to find that everyone had found each other and were seated together. We sat down and joined the lively conversation. Food (though it took awhile, and Dave's crabcakes never did appear), drinks (water for me!), and fun were had by all. Then the waitress damn near kicked us out by shoving the check at us. We all though that rather rude, until Julie admitted to telling the waitress that we were in a hurry. It all made sense.

So off to the TLA we went to see the Dual Quasars of Rock. I have no photos to accompany this entry because I was unclear of the TLA's camera policy and I thought it best to play it safe. Marisa, however, had tried calling ahead to find out if she could bring her camera with her. She couldn't get ahold of anyone, so assumed that since there was nothing posted on the TLA website that she was good to go.

I think you can all see where this is going.

We all entered the TLA (the men got patted down and the ladies had their bags searched) without a hitch, until it was Marisa's turn. Naturally she was last, and there is a not re-admittance policy. Keep that in mind.

The woman at the door looked into Marisa's bag and told her that they didn't allow 'professional cameras' into the venue. Now, Marisa's camera is nice (and it is black) but it isn't a professional camera. Try as we might to explain this to the ticket lady she wouldn't hear of it. It was either get rid of the camera (but where do you put it?) or don't come in.

We raised enough of a stink that the ticket woman called over her manager to have the final say. He took one quick glance at the camera and said, 'That's fine. She can go in.'

Crisis averted. I was worried for a little while that I was going to be have to be a good friend and miss the concert (SOLIDARITY!). Luckily, no such dramatic actions were called for.

Now that our entire party had entered the TLA it was time to discuss why this dude would be the opener for the opener. No one seemed that into him, but then again he was playing the ukulele on stage which takes some moxy.

Last Car was next up, and I liked them. They sang a few songs about Mr. T and then sang a very lovely song about a firefly. I bought their demo, which I was happy to find out included everything they sang on stage.

After the Last Car it was time for TMBG! It always takes at least 30 minutes to setup the stage for them, so we stood there waiting as more and more people filled up the venue.

Finally, their they were rocking us like a hurricane. If you would like the complete set list check out this entry on This Might Be a Wiki. They sang a good number of older songs I had never heard them sing in concert and some brand spanking new songs (as Flansburg said, 'We're here promoting our new album that isn't out yet by playing songs you don't know!'). They played for a good long while and had two encores (during which they played the TLA venue song which I enjoy).

Overall I would give the outing a 9.5 out of 10. I can't wait for the next TMBG concert.

Dolly Parton loves me too

retrodolly.jpgAfter Raina's concert I was milling about in the back of the church, as I am wont to do, when something a little odd happened.

A friend of mine walked up to me, and said, 'Someone told me to give this to you.'

'What is it,' I asked.

'Here,' she said, 'I don't know anything about it, other than I was told to give it to you.'

She extended her hand, and there was a CD with my name on it. I took it (after making sure it wasn't an explosive of some kind) and put it in my pocket.

When I got more I slide the CD in to my iMac and was presented with a list of unlabeled tracks in iTunes. I double clicked on one to hear the dulcet tones of, you guessed it, Dolly Parton. The only way the CD could be better is if I knew what the heck the songs were called.

At this rate I'm going to have Ms. Parton's entire catalog without paying a dime.

Thanks, mysterious CD gifter number two [read about the first one here]!

Raina Rose loves me

Will she still love me tomorrow? No, no I haven't been smitten, nor have I found myself a lady friend, however, I did get a chance to listen to the music of Raina Rose this Saturday.

She bills herself as a folk singer, and what a folk singer she is. She had the Unitarian church a rockin'.

It is very odd for someone who grew up Roman Catholic to go see a concert in a church. I kept thinking that the priest was going to wake up and kick us out or something. However, that didn't happen, and Raina (sister of the talented blogger Marisa) entertained the audience with her songs and her stories (and she gets extra points for making a Batteries Not Included reference at one point during the evening).

I say to you, that you should buy a copy of her album 'Despite the Crushing Weight of Gravity' and do it posthaste (I'm partial to the track called 'Bicycle,' but they are all winners I tells ya)!

Oh, and she was giving out buttons that said 'raina rose loves me' (pictured above) so that explains that.

Mysterious CD's

Blank_cdAs an IT professional, you would think that I wouldn't make a habit of inserting strange Cd's into my computer.  It seems, you would be wrong.

This morning I got into work and there was an unlabeled CD sitting on the keyboard of my laptop (I use a ThinkPad at work.  ThinkPads are the best PC laptops I have ever used, however, Powerbooks/MacBook Pros are still better than they are.  I am thinking of lobbying for a MacBook when it comes time to get a replacement). Now, as a responsible sys admin I would NEVER just pop a random CD into one of my servers, that goes without saying. Sadly, this same rule doesn't apply to my laptop.

Without a second though I popped the CD into my machine (though to my credit auto-run is disabled so nothing too bad could have happened) and checked to see what it was.

Can you guess what was on that CD?

Go ahead, I'll wait.

No? Well, I'll tell you.  It was an MP3 cd of Little Sparrow and The Grass is Blue (yep, those are both iTunes Music Store links).  What the heck are those, you ask since you don't want to click the links.  They are two albums by Dolly Parton (who I am mildly obsessed with at the moment).

This is one of the benefits to having a blog which almost everyone you work with reads.  Thanks to my mysterious CD gifter!

The moral of the story? If you find a blank CD laying on your computer, just pop it in... security be damned!  Sure, it might be some sort of horrible virus that will hose your system, but more likely the Dolly Parton fairy has visited your machine and you can rock out to the dulcet sounds of Miss Dolly Parton (and if you're lucky Kenny Rogers might be in there somewhere too).